Brighter future for children after maths success

PUBLISHED: 09:42 18 October 2009 | UPDATED: 21:44 07 July 2010

HUNDREDS of struggling Norfolk seven-year-olds have a brighter future after being turned on to maths as part of a trial that has been so successful that it is going nationwide.

HUNDREDS of struggling Norfolk seven-year-olds have a brighter future after being turned on to maths as part of a trial that has been so successful that it is going nationwide.

The county was among five places to pioneer the Every Child Counts programme, giving children one-to-one maths sessions with trained teachers to help them catch up with their classmates.

It has reaped remarkable rewards, with the youngsters making 14 months' progress in one term made up of just 60 half-hour sessions.

Norfolk's success has made such an impression that the government is introducing it across England amid claims it is “breaking entrenched inequalities”.

So far, more than 200 Norfolk children have been helped at 10 schools in the two years of the trial, including Bishops Junior and Norwich Road Primary in Thetford.

This year, 34 schools have signed up, and another 400 of the lowest-achieving seven-year-olds will benefit from the specialist sessions. Another 10 schools are signed up to join in 2010/11.

Robin Ings, Norfolk's primary strategy manager, said: “We were in it from the start and worked on trialling and developing the material.

“Four children at each school involved get daily, 30-minute one-to-one sessions on maths. That lasts for 12 weeks.

“The sessions are exciting to watch. The children are engaged and interested and it helps their self-confidence and behaviour as well.

“The £2,500 per child is value for money because of the education it gives the children now and the future savings on special educational needs provision. This is improving their life chances.”

Those carrying out the teaching must have at least two years' teaching experience at foundation or primary level. They receive specialist training from the county council before being allowed to take on the work.

Norfolk was invited in 2007 to pioneer the programme, alongside Birmingham, Southwark, Kent and Middlesbrough. The schools targeted are those with lower maths attainment.

Up until now the Department for Children, Schools and Families has part-funded the programme, with schools making a contribution.

In future, schools will pay for the specialist maths teachers, but Mr Ings said it would “spread because it works”.

Shelagh Hutson, cabinet member for children's services, said: “I am absolutely delighted Norfolk has played an important part in piloting this initiative which has paid such spectacular dividends.

“We have seen marked improvement in the attainment of the children who have received this intensive support and the potential long-term benefits to the children concerned - and to society as a

whole - should not be under estimated.”

This week, government research into the programme found that the children involved were progressing at four times the average rate, and that it could save taxpayers millions of pounds.

Schools minister Vernon Coaker said: “These are stunning results.”

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